Many of us experience occasional joint discomfort or stiffness. For many of us this is associated with normal wear and tear and stress on the joints. Naturally, the older generation may experience this more, but even the younger generation can experience joint issues, depending on their lifestyle. It is a good idea for all of us to focus on ways to maintain joint health. Ayurveda has much to offer with lifestyle suggestions and herbal supplements to support healthy bones and joints.
Two Types of Joint Issues:
One type of joint issue is associated with poorly-nourished joints, low bone density, or overall weakness. This can be due to weak circulation associated with Vata imbalance. When circulation is poor, our joints and the surrounding connective tissue can be dry and lacking the nutrients needed to maintain good mobility.
Another kind of joint issue is associated with a toxic buildup in the joints, and is the result of too many toxins in the body. As these toxins (ama) accumulate in the joint area, they lead to a stiff, heavy feeling. If the toxins stay in the joint for a long time, the joint can become swollen and uncomfortable at times. Damp, cold weather can aggravate this type of joint issue. Long-term joint issues can arise if ama is not removed from the joints.
Vata-Related Joint Issues:
When the aspect of Vata that governs the circulation and nerve impulses (Vyana Vata) is aggravated, the first type of joint issue can occur. An individual’s circulation, metabolism and ability to absorb nutrients from food become weakened. This then causes a chain reaction, and the bone and connective tissue do not receive enough nourishment, eventually leading to degeneration. Additionally, the imbalance of Vata and the weakened system create a drying effect on a subdosha of Kapha that governs lubrication of the joints (Shleshaka Kapha). When this happens, the joints are not properly lubricated, leading to increased discomfort and diminished flexibility.
Foods and Lifestyle Habits to Pacify Vata
In ayurveda, “food is medicine, ” so a diet tailored to our individual unique needs is recommended. There are six tastes, which form the basis of a healthy diet. Inherent within each taste are certain properties of nature that have an effect on the three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha (vpk). Because each taste affects Vata, Pitta, and Kapha differently, all six tastes should be included in every meal — or at least once every twenty-four hours — to create a balanced diet.
When Vata-related joint issues occur, it is most important to balance Vata. Favor the sweet, sour and salty tastes and eat fewer bitter, astringent and pungent foods. Sweet tastes: natural sugar in moderation; naturally-occurring sugars in milk, butter, rice, breads and pasta. Sour: yogurt, lemon and cheese. Salty… self-explanatory. Bitter: green leafy vegetables and turmeric. Pungent: spicy foods, ginger, hot peppers and cumin. Astringent: beans, lentils and pomegranate.
Other healthy foods to include in a Vata-reducing diet are grains such as oats, quinoa, rye and amaranth. These can be cooked in water with a little ghee added. Freshly-cooked organic vegetables; split mung dhal soup; and sweet, organic juicy fruits are great for Vata. It's important to eat a diet rich in calcium, including high-quality organic milk and vegetables such as spinach, kale, asparagus, and root vegetables. Try cooking with our Organic Vata Churna.
Prevention and reduction of Vata-related joint problems can be supported with a Vata-balancing routine:
Herbs that Heal, Vata Balancing
The herbal formula for this type of joint issue is called santarpana, which means nurturing. Based on this nurturing theory of santarpana, we have developed a precise combination of nourishing herbs called Osteo Relief that provides nourishment to bones and joints, and supports the bone tissue and Shleshaka Kapha.
Worry Free is a powerful Vata-balancing formula by itself and, taken with Organic Ashwagandha, can be very effective in dealing with Vata-related issues.
Calcium Support provides natural calcium and increases calcium absorption, supporting healthy nerves and joints and nourishing the bones. Consider avoiding caffeine and a highly acidic diet, because they increase the excretion of calcium and magnesium in the urine, thus depleting the body’s natural calcium.
Toxin or Ama-Related Joint Issues:
This type of joint issue is associated with ama (digestive toxins) in the joints, and is characterized by a heavy, stiff feeling. At its core is weak digestion, due to either improper diet and lifestyle, or seasonal imbalance. Sometimes weak digestion can be triggered by a bout of cold, humid weather. That is the first stage. If nothing is done to dissolve the ama and it sits in the joints for a long time, eventually the ama converts to amavisha, an even more toxic form of ama that is more irritating and reactive in nature. Amavisha causes the joint to become swollen and uncomfortable. In this kind of environment, ama also mixes with the natural lubricating fluids in the joint governed by Shleshaka Kapha, forming an extremely sticky, toxic substance known as Shleshma. Shleshma restricts mobility and disturbs circulation in the joint. If the ama, amavisha and Shleshma stay in the joints, unattended to, for a long time, eventually the structure of the joints and the bone itself become problematic. Once this happens to the joint and bone, it becomes extremely difficult to correct.
Foods and Lifestyle Habits to Reduce Ama
An ama-reducing diet is made up of warm, light, dryer foods that are easy to digest. Nourishing soups and warm, freshly-cooked grains and vegetables prepared with Stimulating Spice Mix and spices to stimulate digestion are the mainstays of the ama-reducing diet.
A very effective way to purify the joints is to drink lots of Ama Pachana water (water infused with ama-reducing spices). Or simply cook with our Stimulating Spice Mix: Organic Kapha Churna.
Keep digestion working properly, and feel lighter and more energetic by following this simple ama-reducing routine:
- Avoid long naps during the day — not more than 10 to 15 minutes.
- Try going to bed early, before 10:00 p.m., so you can rise before 6:00 a.m.
- Exercise for half an hour every day, and choose a type of exercise that you enjoy. A brisk walk is ideal for most people, along with yoga asana stretches, although if you have more Kapha dosha you may need more vigorous exercise to stay in balance.
Herbs that Heal, Ama Reduction
For a high amount of toxic ama building up in the joints, Elim-Tox or Elim-Tox-O is recommended to remove ama faster. (Choose Elim-Tox-O if you have more Pitta.) Follow the detox routine recommended with the herbs, and use the Joint Soothe II oil for the best results.
To naturally lubricate the joints, massage Joint Soothe II over the joints. This ayurvedic oil is also designed to eliminate impurities and deliver vital nutrients to the joints. Joint Soothe II is a highly complex formula that takes many days to prepare and contains two traditional oil formulas for strengthening the joints. One of these oil formulas, Mahanarayan Oil, is a blend of sesame oil, milk, and 56 herbs that is praised in the ayurvedic texts for its effectiveness in increasing circulation around the joints. Another herbal blend included in Joint Soothe II is known as Mahavishagarbh Oil, a sharp, heating, penetrating oil that penetrates the surface layers of the skin to target ama in the joints, liquefy the impurities, and restore natural balance.